Multiplication and Fractions

Two years.  Two first breaths.  Two bright pairs of eyes.  Two sets of perfect fingers.  Two sets of exquisite toes.  Two brand new smiles–one with dimples, one without.

Two is new, for us.

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There are twice as many dirty diapers.  Twice as many bottles of baby shampoo.  At least twice as many wakeful nights.  Two times as many pacifiers.  Double the lost socks.

Half the amount of “free” time, and I daresay the floors will be dirty twice as quickly as before.  The dishes will pile faster, and probably sit longer before I manage them, and the same for the laundry. Grocery shopping will be more of a three-ring circus act than before.  Naptimes will be more precarious.  There will doubtless be more sick days, and nights spent wiping drippy noses and worrying over winter coughs.

But, that’s only half the story.

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There are twice as many giggles.  Twice as many hugs.  More rounds of sweet “good-night” wishes, and happy kisses.  One more to fill an arm, hold a hand, and take possession of your heart with a strength you never imagined.

Twice as many laughs. Two subjects for photography, and treasure troves of truth-is-stranger-than-fiction stories.

There are two now, and altogether we are four.  Who knew multiplication could be so sweet?!

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Introducing the New One–Klaus Daniel

Born April 9th, 2014

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BOOK REVIEW: Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins

hex_hallBook: Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins

Genre: Fantasy, YA, Popular

Three years ago, Sophie Mercer discovered that she was a witch.  It’s gotten her into a few scrapes.  Her non-gifted mother has been as supportive as possible, consulting Sophie’s estranged father–an elusive European warlock–only when necessary.  But when Sophie attracts too much human attention for a prom-night spell gone horribly wrong, it’s her dad who decides her punishment: exile to Hex Hall, an isolated reform school for wayward Prodigium, a. k. a. witches, faeries, and shapeshifters.  By the end of her first day among fellow freak-teens, Sophie has quite a scorecard: three powerful enemies who look like supermodels, a futile crush on a gorgeous warlock, a creepy tagalong ghost, and a new roommate who happens to be the most hated person and only vampire on campus.  Worse, Sophie soon learns that a mysterious predator has been attacking students, and her only friend is the number-one suspect.  As a series of blood-crudling mysteries starts to converge, Sophie prepares for the biggest threat of all: an ancient secret society determined to destroy all Prodigium, especially her.  (Description from book jacket)

 

As you’ve most likely guessed from the title and description of this book, it is a bit of a silly YA book.  As a general rule I try to shun books that openly use the word “crush” in the description.  But, I was reading the description very quickly, with a baby in my arms and a toddler running wild… somehow it slipped through the cracks.  As it turns out, I was pleasantly surprised and enjoyed the book, despite the indication of angsty drama.  I actually laughed out loud within the first couple chapters.  Definitely was not expecting it to be quite so humorous, but it really was a fun and funny quick read.  I finished it in a couple of hours.

As far as the plot goes, it was a little predictable, but still managed to catch me at the end with a bit of surprise.  It is the first book in a trilogy, but I have no idea where it will possibly go from here.  It seemed like a nice, self-contained story, and it really surprised me that there was more to the series.  I guess I’ll just have to read the next two books and see what happens.  I’m at least curious now, if for no other reason than to see how on earth the author plans to make the story move forward from the grinding completion it came to at the end of Hex Hall.

My rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

The New One by Josh and Elizabeth P.

The New One: Klaus Daniel Peterson

Est. 4/9/2014

The New One is decidedly cute, and much adored by The First One–both are doted upon by The Mom One and The Dad One, and also by A Grandma One and an Aunt One who have come to visit.

Aside from adjusting to The New One’s strange distaste for sleeping during normal sleeping hours, all the P.’s are doing well and looking forward to bringing you more book reviews in the beginning of May.

The sabbatical was unintentional, as The New One chose to arrive a week ahead of schedule.  The Mom One was very grateful to be released from whale status early, but did not manage to get her quota of blog posts written and scheduled early.  Oops! But thanks for your patience!

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BOOK REVIEW: Letters From Skye by Jessica Brockmole

letters_from_skyeBook: Letters from Skye by Jessica Brockmole

 

Genre: Historical, literary

 

In early 1912, a fan from Illinois writes a letter to the little known poet, Elspeth Dunn, who has never left the tiny island of Skye.  They begin a correspondence that spans several years, and  ultimately leads to their falling in love in the midst of the first World War.  In 1940, London is under siege, and Elspeth’s daughter Margaret finds the hundreds of letters her mother has kept ever since those first world war days.  Elspeth won’t tell her what happened, and mysteriously disappears after Margaret discovers the letters.  It’s up to Margaret to try to unravel the secret of what exactly happened between her mother and The American all those years ago.

 

Letters from Skye is a gorgeous book.  The story of Elspeth and David’s relationship in the earlier part of the century is told entirely through their letters back and forth.  I know it’s a lot more difficult to make a story feel multi-dimensional when told from a limited medium like that, but this book was truly beautifully done.  The story was fleshed out with the tidbits you glean in the later time period of the story.  It’s a complicated love story, in spite of the fact that you really only hear about what happened from two very biased parties as they relate to one another.  In the end though, they did the right thing in the resolution, and at the very end, though it was long belated they fulfilled their destiny.

This is one of those books that just fits me.  I love the style it was written in.  I love the language.  I love the time period.  If I don’t particularly love some aspects of the story, it’s okay because they all do the right thing in the end and everything turns out happy.  Have I mentioned lately how much I love happy endings?  I do.  I really do.

Letters From Skye was a pretty quick read.  I finished it in an evening or two.  Partly because–let’s be honest, here–once I started I could hardly put it down.

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars.

BOOK REVIEW: Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker by Jennifer Chiaverini

mrs_lincolns_dressmakerBook: Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker by Jennifer Chiaverini

Genre: Historical Fiction

 

Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker chronicles the friendship that sprung up between Mary Todd Lincoln and her dressmaker, Elizabeth Keckley–a free black woman–during the Lincolns stay in the White House.  A skilled seamstress,  Elizabeth Keckley built a business for herself, fashioning gowns for the elite ladies of Washington D. C.  Mary Todd Lincoln was among her clients, and during the time the Lincolns spent in the White House, Keckley became a well-known, if not integral, part of White House society.  In later years, she compiled a quilt with scraps from the dresses she made for Mary Todd Lincoln, naming it the Mary Todd Lincoln quilt, and also compiled a memoir entitled 30 years a slave, 4 years in the White House.  Though the friendship between Mrs. Lincoln and Elizabeth Keckley fell out over some scandal after Keckley’s memoir was published, the memoir remains as proof of a unique friendship in history.

 

Once again, Chiaverini has taken a piece of actual history and fashioned it around a novel.  While she is unparalleled in her research and writing stle, I do not think Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker was her best work.  I’ve loved a lot of her other books, but this one just didn’t do it for me.  Ordinarily, I really enjoy the historical fiction books that are crafted around actual people and events.  I still think they take a great deal more finesse than just about any other book.  This one just felt too slow.  I never got a real sense of what the plot actually was and it just felt like pages, upon pages, of descriptions and events going nowhere.  Lots of historical facts–not a whole lot of interesting plot.  It was painfully slow.  Things just kept happening for no apparent reason.  I know, I know, it’s real history–every moment isn’t necessarily a roller coaster.  But, to be considered good fiction, it has to have some elements of a plot.  Feeling something for the main character would be a start.  I never felt attached to Elizabeth Keckley.  Her son dies fairly early on in the book, which could have been a big deal, except that it was so far removed from the story itself that it felt more like a footnote.  Didn’t know him, didn’t really understand the dynamics of the relationship between him and his mother, and didn’t particularly care when he died.  Plus, it was all but forgotten a chapter after it happened, except for a few other random mentions.  The same goes for the death of Keckley’s husband.  Granted, he wasn’t even living with her at the time, and apparently he was a bit of a scumbag, but all that goes to prove is that his death did nothing for the story.  It was just a random fact.  Honestly, I feel like this book would have been better if it had just been a biography of Elizabeth Keckley, and written like a biography.  If I hadn’t been expecting a novel, I would have enjoyed this book a lot more.

If you want to read a really great historical fiction book about somebody real in history, try Chiaverini’s The Spymistress before you read this one.  At least then you’ll know how good history-based historical fiction can be.

My rating: 3 out of 5 stars.  I would give it just 2 stars, but the history was exceptionally well-researched, so that at least has to count for something, I guess.

Happy Spring!

After six months of rain and nasty cold, it’s still mostly cloudy and chilly to boot, but there are at least signs of life!

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The walk to the river is turning green, flowers are blooming, fruit trees have blossoms and everything is just pink green and yellow in general. Sophiapea loves all the redbuds and trees with pink flowers, and has dubbed them “pink pincess trees”–and declares it loudly any time she sees one.

At any rate, it’s encouraging to think that it will get warmer eventually and we’re at least on the home stretch towards beautiful weather!>

Prenatal Fitness: 35 weeks

Well, I’m back to share with y’all what my workouts this week consisted of.  I hit the 35 week mark early on in the week.  As the end of this pregnancy approaches, I’m finding it harder to want to workout, though I never regret it after I’m done.  Friday morning was probably the toughest decision yet.  I wanted SO badly to just skip the workout and enjoy a nice leisurely morning of reading or writing, but I told myself to just start with 10 minutes.  One 10 minutes led to another, which led to another, and it really didn’t take long to hit my 30 minute mark.  I probably could have kept going, but I have a busy day of grocery shopping and hauling my 35 pound toddler around so I opted in favor of saving a bit of energy for that 😉

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So, here goes!

Monday: I started off the week with one of the exercise videos from Blogilates workout for the day: a Bikini Blaster for AwesomeSauce Arms.  I love Blogilates, and I love her workouts of the day, but I’ve found that they incorporate a lot of Ab exercises or ab-strong poses that are incredibly difficult to do this late on in the pregnancy.

Awesome Sauce Arms was perfect though.  Arm strength that left me finding new sore muscles for a couple days 🙂

Since that was only 20 minutes, and the other Bikini Blaster workouts looked a little too bouncy or absy for this big ol’ pregnant belly, I moved on to a yoga workout by Ali Kamenova.  It was pretty compatible with the big belly.  I just made space in each pose for the belly, either by making it a wide leg stance or not taking the stretch quite as far.

Tuesday: Today I did more Blogilates.  I made it through a couple of the videos, but the Cardio dance session was just too much.  Looked fun, I gave it a go, and I’ll try it again when I’m not preggers, but my belly was not happy with all that bouncing around.  Not to mention that it was really, painfully awkward.  I mean, seriously.  Thank goodness I live out in the middle of nowhere and keep my curtains closed for my early morning workout…

did do Blogilates’ Fat Burning Cardio Warmup,

Blogilates Spring Fling Toning

and a Pop Sugar workout:  Victoria’s Secret Model: 10 Minute Circuit

Those three were all do-able with a few of my modifications.  One of my favorite modifications for jump squats or any jumping motion really, is to do a normal squat/other random exercise and power through it like I intend to actually jump, all the way to my tip-toes before coming back down.  It kicks a normal squat up a few notches, but the displacement is a lot more controllable.

Wednesday: Yoga Day.  After a couple days of cardio and strength training it felt really good to slow down and stretch out.  I did a lot of heavy gardening work in the beginning of the week, so I was feeling pretty sore from that too.  This Hatha Yoga routine by Ali Kamenova really hit the spot.  Obviously, I’m not doing any headstands, but I do like to practice getting into Crow Pose, without letting my toes leave the ground.

Thursday: Today was a Fitness Blender Day.  I love FitnessBlender!  They have so many awesome workouts, with different styles and levels of difficulty–you’ll be hardpressed to not find ANYTHING you want to try.

Friday: Today I did a few more of the Blogilates workout of the day, and a little prenatal yoga from Body Talk Daily to wind down.  I was feeling incredibly achy and sore–whether from my kinda obnoxious concoction of workouts and heavy garden work this week or just from the normal 3rd trimester aches and pains, nobody knows.  I stuck it out for my 30 minute minimum though, and that yoga at the end was fantastic.  It felt amazing.

Blogilates Heart on Fire

Blogilates Legs on Fire

Body Talk Daily Prenatal Yoga: Episode 4

So there you have it.  My workouts of the week.

BOOK REVIEW: Divergent Series by Veronica Roth

allegiantBook: Allegiant by Veronica Roth, book 3 in the Divergent trilogy

Genre: YA, Dystopian future

Allegiant is the third book in the Divergent trilogy.  I have actually read the first two books of the trilogy (Divergent and Insurgent, if you were wondering) and I thought I had posted reviews on them, only to discover upon inspection of my archives that I did not.  The silver lining to this cloud is that I’m going to attempt to give you guys a review for a trilogy rather than just the separate books.  I’ve never done this before, so bear with me, but I think this a great trilogy to give it a try for.

By now you’ve probably seen the ads for the Divergent movie that is coming out later this month, and you may have realized that it’s based on a book series.  If you haven’t read the series yet, I highly recommend that you do so before you go see the movie.  Always, always, always, read the book before you watch the movie.  Unless you’d prefer to just not know when something in the movie is inevitably screwed up from how it happened in the book.  Given the frustration that knowledge brings to bibliophiles everywhere (myself included) it suddenly occurs to me that I might be doing it wrong… whatever.  Just read the book.

Anyways.  The series begins with Divergent and we are introduced to another dystopian society–similar to other popular books like The Hunger Games, in that a historic war led to a huge change in how society functioned.  The resemblance ends there, however, as we are introduced to a society where people are split up into four factions–each with a different function in society.  The story specifically focuses on Beatrice Prior, who finds out at her choosing ceremony that she doesn’t fit into any one of the four factions.   She is something unusual, different, and widely considered dangerous.  She is Divergent.  The main focus of Divergent is showing us how she manages to fit herself into the system of factions.

Insurgent continues to follow Beatrice (now going by Tris) as she works within the crumbling society of factions.  War is about to break out between the factions, and she will need to fully embrace her Divergence to survive.

Allegiant is the last book in the trilogy.  The society of factions has been completely broken up at this point, leaving chaos and turmoil in it’s wake.  We begin to discover more about how the society came into existence, and the truth shakes Tris to her core.  This book is told from two perspectives–Tris’ as well as her love interest, Tobias.

So there’s my brief overview–I didn’t want to go too in depth, because since it’s a trilogy, too much info about the second and third books, could end up being spoilers for whichever book is preceding.

Overall, I was really impressed with how this trilogy worked altogether.  Each book adds a new element to the story, and provides some new enlightenment.  It felt very organized and well-planned.  With the Hunger Games trilogy, I ended up disappointed with the last book especially because it felt horribly rushed–like the author was just trying to tie up loose ends in a hurry and get on with it.  Everything in this series seemed intentional.  Well-oiled gears of a machine, providing forward impetus to the conclusion.

I thought the conclusion in Allegiant was stunning, especially for a YA series.  Initially, it shocked me, but the more I thought about it, the better I liked it.  It was really the only solution that could have brought the series to such a dramatic conclusion.  Sure, there are other ways Roth could have ended it, but I think any other way would have made the series a lot weaker.  So even though it seriously goes against my penchant for happy endings, I’m afraid I have to admit that I liked the ending.

Thing #2 that makes this series awesome: No love triangles between main characters!

I cannot even tell you how much I hate love triangles.  Especially teenage love triangles.  Especially in popular fiction like this.  Seriously–the love triangle is the most overused drama engine ever.  I hate it, I hate it, I hate it.   There is a romance in this series, but I am SO glad Roth seems to be one of the few YA writers left who realizes that a normal relationship has quite enough opportunity for drama, without adding in another whole person.

If you’re a parent, concerned about the level of romance your teen or preteen will be exposed to in reading this series, there is a fair amount of kissing/relationship tension in the first two books, but it is all pretty YA friendly.  In the last book, the romance ramps up a bit and it is eventually implied that they have sex.  Again, not really graphic, but the implication is certainly there, and if my kids were preteen or young teenagers wanting to read this, we would be having a discussion about it.

That was definitely the most irritating thing about the series for me, especially as a parent.  There is no need to add sex into a YA book. Period. If it’s not “age appropriate” in the movies, why on earth would it be okay to put it in a YA book that any preteen or teenager would want to read?  I won’t go into that rant here, but seriously… ugh!

Aside from that, I really enjoyed this series, and recommend you read it.  I’m reeeeeeally hoping to make it to see the movie before I have this baby, but who knows if that will happen or not.  Life of a parent 🙂

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

March Reading Goals

Since my latest trip to the library, I’ve set a few reading goals for the month of March that I’m going to share with y’all here, and then hopefully follow up on as I complete them.

Firstly, I want to start doing a weekly post of the books I’m reading to my daughter.  We typically get between five and seven books for her at our library trips and we’ve found some really great books for the young toddler age, as well as some that I would just as soon avoid for the rest of my years of young children.

Secondly, I have 4 books that I’ll be working on reading myself this month.  Of course, if I get them all done, adding more is as simple as another trip to the library, but as I enter my last full month before my second child is  due, I’m not sure whether I’ll find myself reading more as I get more tired, or less because I spend too much of Sophiapea’s naptime sleeping right along with her 🙂

On to my list.

#1. Allegiant by Veronica Roth

allegiantI FINALLY have the 3rd book of the Divergent series.  Already halfway through it, and crossing my fingers that we make it to the movies one last time before our #2 makes an appearance. Must. See. Divergent.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#2. Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker by Jennifer Chiaverini

mrs_lincolns_dressmakerI love everything I’ve ever read by Chiaverini.  So happy that the local library has a selection of her books that I haven’t seen before!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#3. The American Home Front 1941-1942 by Alistair Cooke

the_american_homefrontYet another shameless indulgence of my fascination with the wwii era.  What can I say? I do love history!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#4. Never Buried by Edie Clare

never_buriedAfter my first introduction to Edie Clare’s writing in Long Time Coming, I spent some time on the kindle store and found one of her mystery series.

There you have it.  My reading goals for March.  Towards the end of the month I’ll start collecting books for baby month! Lots of opportunities for reading in the hospital and during midnight feedings! 😀

Prenatal Fitness for Free

Yesterday morning, as I trolled Youtube in search of my workout for the day, it suddenly occurred to me that as wonderful a resource Youtube can be for free fitness from home, some of y’all out there might benefit from some of the treasure troves I’ve found.  Especially if you happen to be 34 weeks (okay, ALMOST 34 weeks) pregnant and have a deep loathing for a lot of “normal” prenatal workouts.

Here’s the thing: I am pregnant, and I do have an enormous baby bump, but I am well aware of what I was capable of doing fitness-wise before pregnancy.  I wasn’t exactly running marathons, but I did 60 minutes of HIIT workouts 3 times a week, and ran a couple miles every other day.  Though there are some very real precautions that you need to take with exercise, especially later on in your pregnancy as the belly gets HUGE, I still feel capable of a good workout.  I want to sweat.  I want to be a little sore the next day.  I want to not feel like I’m necessarily losing ground on the fitness turf (read: no bye-bye arms.)  Youtube is an awesome resource for cheapskates like me who have no desire to pay for a gym membership, let alone the childcare it would require to get a decent workout in.  Unfortunately, the sheer volume of fitness videos can make it difficult to settle on one–or 3 or 4 of the shorter ones.  That, my friends, is what I’m here today to help you with.

I’m going to share with you what I did for a workout this morning, and anticipate adding more posts like this several times a week until a) I pop this kid out, or b) I’ve shared with you all my favorite fitness routines–minus the three paragraphs and counting of introduction.

Several things to keep in mind:

1. I am not a fitness trainer or a doctor.  I’ve read a lot about exercise modifications during pregnancy, and have spoken with my doctor about any concerns I have, but if you have concerns about a particular exercise, you should talk to your doctor specifically.  If something hurts or doesn’t feel right, I modify it until it’s okay, or I just don’t do the exercise.  Even so, it is entirely possible to get a good workout in, modifications necessary or not.  Use your own good judgment.

2. As I am into well into my 3rd trimester, my doctor has advised against big, jarring movements.  The belly is just too big for any of that to be comfortable anyways.  If an exercise video has jumping jacks, jump squats, or any other sort of explosive jarring motion, I modify the crap out of it.  If I include videos that I’ve had to modify exercises in, I’ll let you know in a note underneath the specific video.

3. I’ve had a lot of hip pain through the 2nd and 3rd trimesters this time around, so I try to always make hip and lower back stretching a priority.

4. I usually workout 5-6 days a week, alternating cardio/strength and power yoga.  Workout sessions will be anywhere from 30-60 minutes, depending on how much my toddler slides into my workout hour.  I make workouts a normal  part of our life, so she has specific things that she does when I’m working out, but as I’m sure you know if you have a toddler, sometimes the best laid plans go awry.

5. I use both “prenatal” workouts and normal workouts, not in any particular order or combination, but whatever I feel like doing in one day.

This is Heidi Murkoff’s What To Expect When You Are Expecting Workout presented by the YouTube channel Lionsgate BeFit.

Notes: This is a 10 minute cardio workout.  I was not impressed by its difficulty as an actual cardio workout, but it was an okay warmup.  Very low impact.  No modifications necessary.

This is a 15 minute pregnancy workout presented by the YouTube channel HASfit.

Notes: This was the real gold mine of the day.  I broke a sweat, got my heartrate up, and will probably have slightly sore arms tomorrow! It was all low-impact, but using 3 lb weights throughout kicked up the intensity.  This had the best low impact jumping jack modification I’ve ever used, and I fully intend to use it to modify any jumping jacks I encounter hereafter! No modifications were necessary, however, I did lower the wall-pushup to the edge of the couch to get a little more bang for my buck.  If you have any abdominal separation (and by 34 weeks, if you DON’T have any, you’re probably superwoman!) exercises that strain your abs do very little for you and can do more damage, which will just set you back when the baby’s out and you’re working on losing the baby tummy.  Exercises like pushups and planks can be modified by raising your hands until the little triangular pooch between your ab muscles disappears and your belly is just one big glorious beachball shape as you do the exercise.

This is Lower Back Stretches for Sciatica Pain presented by the YouTube channel FitnessBlender.

Notes: This was a great combination of stretches for the lower back and hip area, and it really did loosen up my ever-painful hip and back area.  The first exercise has you laying flat on your back, which is generally unadvised if you’re into your second trimester.  One way to modify back-lying poses is to prop your right side up on a pillow, however, I tend to feel that that gives the stretch a weird kink.  It was just a minute, and I felt the benefits outweighed the risks in my particular case.  It takes longer than a minute to wake up when I accidentally roll onto my back in the night anyways. With the shell stretch, instead of keeping my knees closed, I modified to a type of wide-legged child’s pose to accommodate the belly.  Likewise, for the standing toe touch, I simply made it a wide legged standing toe touch.  I don’t know if those modifications actually change the way the stretch works on your body, but they worked for me!

Altogether, I spent 33 minutes on these workouts, and finished out the day with a 1.5 mile walk.